Commentary on Political Economy

Saturday 3 January 2015

Negatives Denken and Social Synthesis

I am writing a piece on "The Concept of Freedom" - but I am circling the earth at the same time, so I have had little opportunity to finalise this essay. As a stopgap, I am posting these notes from Part Two of my Nietzschebuch.



Wille zur Macht as Rationalization of the World





The Hobbesian social contract is founded on the apprehension of imminent and violent death at the hands of other human aggressors in the state of nature in which “man is a wolf to man” (homo homini lupus) and in which reigns the total civil war of all against all (bellum omnium contra omnes, bellum civium). But wherein lies, upon what rests, the “rationality” of this “decision” to reach, to con-vene on, a social com-pact and erect a “Common-wealth”? Surely if this decision is “rational” in the state of nature, then the state of nature could never exist “historically” because human beings would have agreed to a “Common-wealth” or status civilis from time immemorial? There is a sense in which Hobbes’s State is not a “state by institution”, then, but a “state by acquisition” – acquired from the beginning of human history. But the “rationality” of human beings remains yet to be established – and Leibniz formulated it some years after the publication of Hobbes’s Leviathan with “the principle of sufficient reason”.


Thus, Hobbes invokes the appetitus for life, for existence, and its rational fear of death – and not just its “violent apprehension” – as the motivations that allow human beings to escape the state of nature so as to enter the civil state, the Economic bourgeois society protected and preserved by the Political state. Easily superseding the fallacious jusnaturalist theories of liberal society that flourished from Locke to Mill, Hobbes’s schema constitutes the most potent combination of free convention and necessary hypothesis. (Cf. Koselleck.) The subiectum of the Hobbesian construction, its foundation or ground (Grund), and therefore what determines the transition from the state of nature to that of civil society under the Sovereign State, is the rationality of preserving existence. Hegel will follow in Hobbes’s and Leibniz’s steps in erecting his own theory of the origins of society and the State, though basing himself this time on the dialectic of self-consciousness, the mediation of Self and Other through the Ob-ject whereby “labour” becomes the material carrier of human emancipation.




Both Hobbes and Hegel seek to identify the “corpus”, the hypokeimenon, the sub-iectum, the rock bottom of human and social reality. For both, human and social motivations and institutions are subject-matters (sub-iecta) over which human beings claim to have “in-sight” by virtue of the “fact” that “we originate” or “initiate” them. (This follows obviously in the tradition of Machiavelli and Vico, verum ipsum factum). Therefore, the “subject” of this “initium” (beginning) must be able “to know” the “subject-matter”, the sub-iectum, of human reality, for the simple reason that the “initiator” or “author” of the “action” is also able to cogitate (co-agitare, co-act) on the “motive” of its ex-ertion or execution. It is thus that human beings can imagine that “consciousness” or “thinking” (cogitare) is by itself proof not merely of existence, but also of the existence of an “agency”, an Ego or Ich-heit, of the “entity” that thinks. The entity that thinks is “conscious” of itself, and therefore acquires an “id-entity”, an Ego. Thus, all reality is finally sub-ordinated to the logos, the ratio of the Subject, the Ego, the Ich-heit: that is to say, the “unity” of appetitus and perceptio is posited as the only possibility of being (Leibniz). To ec-sist, to be real, a “being” must be perfect. But to be perfect, a “being” must also be a “unity”, a “monad”, not a composite, for that would beg the question of how “being” could be “many”. As Leibniz put it, “only ‘a being’ can be ‘a being’”! Being is unity; unity is simplicity; simplicity is the seal of truth. Simplex sigillum veri.


Whatever exists, ec-sists because it strives “to come out”, it strives to be. Ec-sistence is the ultimate reason for what is, because what is has greater reason to be than what does not exist at all: This, in a nutshell, is the principle of sufficient reason. It is also the ultimate foundation of empiricism. Already with Hobbes, the “being” of each in-dividual is measured by his Power, the power of self-preservation. And this Power is dependent on the individual ability “to command” other individuals, other Bodies and their Powers. This “command” depends in turn on the ability of an individual to force other individuals to ex-ercise (ex-ertion, from Greek ergos, work) their “labour-power” so as to maintain themselves in existence, to preserve themselves and survive. And this “command” over the “labour-power” of other individuals can be obtained with one’s own labour-power as well as with one’s “possessions” so long as these can provide the means of sustenance needed by other individuals. Beyond the “free will” of each in-dividual, therefore, the Hobbesian schema decrees axiomatically the “mechanical and physical necessity” – the Power – of individuals to exercise control over the labour-power of other individuals through the control of “possessions” that can ensure their survival. Thus, ownership of the means of production determines the command of dead objectified labour (possessions) over living labour considered as a “mechanical quantity”, as work, as labour-power. It is the “separation” of living labour from the means of production that allows this “quantification” of living labour, and therefore of the human experience of “time”.


Much later, Max Weber will entirely mis-take the Durkheimian “organicity” of the division of social labor for the Marxian “separation” or “alienation” [Trennung] of living labor from the means of its objectification or pro-duction – which is the very fact that Weber assumes to be “inescapable”, that is, the “reduction” of workers to mere appendages of what Weber calls “the congealed spirit” – the “machine” – whereby the “reduction” of social labor to “individual labors” reflects the political “separation” of workers from the “leitender Geist” that Weber “delegates” to the “politician” and to the “entrepreneur”! Weber confuses the technical division of social labor with the “inescapable”, but in fact politically violent separation of the “content” of work from its “performance”.


Similarly, Alfred Sohn-Rethel’s theorization of the “division” of social labour between “intellectual” and “manual” labour, which he identifies as the historical origin of the commodity-form and of Western epistemology, is both too abstract (how can we distinguish between the two forms of social labour? All intellectual labour is “manual” in part) and too concrete (all manual labour is “intellectual” in part). Far better it is, then, to limit ourselves to a differentiation based on the “command” by dead over living labour (the wage relation) as the real origin of “abstract labour”.


At the dawn of the rule of the bourgeoisie, at the very beginning of capitalist industry, Hobbes had hoped to formalize its rule “scientifically” through the combination of the “con-vention” of free wills to erect the Political, on one side, and the “hypothesis” of the necessity of their survival from the state of nature into the “equal exchange” of labour-powers and possessions between in-dividuals in the new civil state or Common-wealth, the Economy, on the other. These were the philosophical foundations that allowed the homologation of the free convention of the social contract “instituting” the Political with the scientific hypothesis based on the necessity of individual survival and reproduction in the “acquisition” of an “automatic”, self-regulating market Economy. Hence, Political Economy, the dismal science: “dismal” because still founded on the value-positing “free will” of in-dividuals, and “science” because it derives its “laws” from what it understands to be the “necessity” of the state of nature.


Hobbes and Hegel invoke the apprehension of death to rationalize and explain the exit of individuals from the state of civil war into that of bourgeois civil society (the Economic) and the State (the Political). But whereas Hobbes simplistically assumes an axiomatic, almost Euclidean, “mechanicism” about the homologation of individual self-interests or Power and their social synthesis or mediation in the new Common-wealth, Hegel understands that no such mechanical equivalence is possible and that the social syn-thesis must allow for the satisfaction of “human needs” - material through “labour” and symbolic through “interaction”. Nietzsche instead denounces this “social syn-thesis” for what it is - mere con-vention; he opposes it for its con-venience, for its being an “arbitrary substitution” that transforms the real world of the state of nature into an anthropomorphic fable of symbolic exchange, into a metaphor of language, science and numbers – into the artificial categories of “truth” and “lie”. Hobbes and Hegel and even Schopenhauer assume that the human beings that con-stitute civil society are virtually and essentially the same as those who now live in it – that the transition from the state of nature to civil society does not essentially trans-form the character, psychological if not physical, of individual human beings to the extent that the categories themselves that we employ to con-ceptualise the state of nature may be the pro-duct of civil society and therefore be in-applicable to that state!


And it is this “transition”, as we saw earlier, that will interest Nietzsche in his mature work. Yet even as early as 1873 when he dictated the short notes on Uber Wahrheit und Luge, Nietzsche is already questioning whether the “categories”, the “concepts” that we utilize to com-prehend civil society and the state of nature that preceded it are not fundamentally dis-torted by our very belonging to this civil society. In other words, it is inappropriate to analyse the transition from state of nature to civil society by applying to both “states” the perspective of civil society! It is essential first to subject the perspective of liberal civil society, the categories of bourgeois civil society themselves, to a thorough critique so that we do not let them unduly “colour” our interpretation and analysis of the “transition”.




Insofar as the individual wishes to preserve himself in relation to other individuals, in the state of nature he mostly used his intellect for concealment and dissimulation; however, because necessity and boredom also lead men to want to live in societies and herds, they need a peace treaty, and so they endeavour to eliminate from their world at least the crudest forms of the bellum omnium contra omnes.3 In the wake of this peace treaty, however, comes something which looks like the first step towards the acquisition of that mysterious drive for truth. For that which is to count as 'truth' from this point onwards now becomes fixed, i.e. a way of designating things is invented which has the same validity and force everywhere, and the legislation of language also produces the first laws of truth, for the contrast between truth and lying comes into existence here for the first time: the liar uses the valid tokens of designation- words- to make the unreal appear to be real; he says, for example, 'I am rich', whereas the correct designation for this condition would be, precisely, 'poor'. He misuses the established conventions by arbitrarily switching or even inverting the names for things. (P.143)




Soweit das Individuum sich gegenüber andern Individuen erhalten will, benutzt es in einem natürlichen Zustand der Dinge den Intellekt zumeist nur zur Verstellung: weil aber der Mensch zugleich aus Not und Langeweile gesellschaftlich und herdenweise existieren will, braucht er einen Friedensschluss und trachtet danach, dass wenigstens das allergrößte bellum omnium contra omnes aus seiner Welt verschwinde. Dieser Friedensschluss bringt etwas mit sich, was wie der erste Schritt zur Erlangung jenes rätselhaften Wahrheitstriebes aussieht. Jetzt wird nämlich das fixiert, was von nun an »Wahrheit« sein soll, das heißt, es wird eine gleichmäßig gültige und verbindliche Bezeichnung der Dinge erfunden, und die Gesetzgebung der Sprache gibt auch die ersten Gesetze der Wahrheit: denn es entsteht hier zum ersten Male der Kontrast von Wahrheit und Lüge. Der Lügner gebraucht die gültigen Bezeichnungen, die Worte, um das Unwirkliche als wirklich er, scheinen zu machen; er sagt zum Beispiel: »Ich bin reich«, während für seinen Zustand gerade »arm« die richtige Bezeichnung wäre. Er missbraucht die festen Konventionen durch beliebige Vertauschungen oder gar Umkehrungen der Namen.



Nietzsche seems to accept Hobbes’s hypothesis of the apprehension of death in the state of nature, the “necessity” of the bellum civium, though he cheekily adds “tedium” to this, as leading to the convention of civil society for the sake of “peace”. Later, as we have seen, he will account for this “transition” by laying stress on the “violence” of the erection of the “State” and of society, together with the Verinnerlichung (internalization) and the onset of the “ontology of thought”. He concedes that in the state of nature all forms of human behaviour – even dissimulation! – are genuine and authentic because “necessary”. But this is no longer the case in civil society and the State, which have become purely “conventional” (as a result of the ontology of thought, as he will explain later). Their “necessity”, their “truth” and “science” are utterly fictitious “social masks” worn by individuals to facilitate communication and make the social world “predictable and familiar” the better to satisfy their “need-necessity”. It is not the “truth” that interests human beings in society, but rather the “illusion of truth”; it is whatever suits their selfish needs and interests, just as much as in the state of nature, but this time filtered through the conventions of civil society, through “the perspective of the herd”, which has little to do with “truth” itself but everything to do with “con-venience” and “utility”.



All philosophical speculation about the nature of society, of ethics and politics had started from the “pre-supposition” that “we hold [certain] truths to be self-evident” – as the Preamble to the American Constitution and, a few years later, the French Declaration Universelle des Droits de L’Homme et du Citoyen make clear. But already the “separation” in the French Declaration between “Man” and “Citizen” begs the question of “when” these “rights” are established and how they can become “self-evident” – whence the need for the Founding Fathers to specify these “truths” pleonastically as “self-evident”! (If they were really “self-evident”, there would be no need for the “we hold”.) Hobbes’s “mechanistic” civil society does not perceive the “contra-diction” between the individual’s “Power” that necessarily breaks out into “civil war” as an almost congenital human condition and the free “agreement” of the Political. Hobbes simply fails to explain how “the transition” from state of nature to civil society is “possible”. Indeed, argues Nietzsche with good reason, his entire theory of this “transition” or social contract is possible only because he applies to human beings in the state of nature those philosophical and scientific abilities and beliefs that emanate solely from a civil society already in existence!


By contrast, Mandeville and Nietzsche see most keenly this “contra-diction” in the con-vention that establishes bourgeois civil society: they perceive and denounce as “hypocrisy” and “mask” what bourgeois society lauds as “virtue” or “truth”! These “con-ventions” known as “truths” lead to the “alienation and reification” of human life in society, to the secularization and dis-enchantment of human living experience: yet Nietzsche completely fails to draw the strict historical relationship between these social phenomena and the transformation of society operated by the capitalist bourgeoisie: he accepts bourgeois society as a historical “given” but then impugns it to auspicate a return to the state of nature. It is this “measurement”, this “quantification” of human experience that Nietzsche challenges from the outset – and with it he challenges the “subject” behind it as well as the “causation” or “sufficient reason” of his science – and therefore also the “anthropomorphic” elevation of human standards into absolute Value and Truth. But, like Mandeville before him, Nietzsche fails to explain at this early stage “the effectiveness” of either hypocrisy or truth in this civil state: how can these “con-ventions” or “anthropomorphisms” be effective if they are “pure, formal conventional symbols” that are uni-versally agreed and utilized? In other words, where is the “ad-vantage”? And who suffers the “dis-advantage”? If there is “conflict”, what is the basis or source or corpus or disputandum of the conflict? A clear illustration of Nietzsche’s greater interest at this early stage for “hypocrisy” and dissimulation, for the “self-interested” as against the “dis-interested pursuit of truth”, rather than for what will become later (from BGE onwards) his “anti-natural morality” sense of “Will to Truth”, is illustrated by his concern with language, metaphor, and certainty – all seen as signs of hubris rather than as what he will later interpret as “instruments of the Will to Power” in their own right – part of the “rationalization of the world”. Here “truth” is still, as was hypocrisy for Mandeville, “the homage that Vice pays to Virtue”:



If he does this in a manner that is selfish and otherwise harmful, society will no longer trust him and therefore exclude him from its ranks. Human beings do not so much flee from being tricked as from being harmed by being tricked. Even on this level they do not hate deception but rather the damaging, inimical consequences ofcertain species ofdeception. Truth, too, is only desired by human beings in a similarly limited sense. They desire the pleasant, life-preserving consequences of truth; they are indifferent to pure knowledge ifit has no consequences, but they are actually hostile towards truths which may be harmful and destructive. And, besides, what is the status of those conventions of language? Are they perhaps products of knowledge, of the sense of truth? Is there a perfect match between things and their designations? Is language the full and adequate expression ofall realities? Only through forgetfulness could human beings ever entertain the illusion that they possess truth to the degree described above. If they will not [144] content themselves with truth in the form of tautology, i.e. with empty husks, they will for ever exchange illusions for truth. What is a word? The copy of a nervous stimulation in sounds. To infer from the fact of the nervous stimulation that there exists a cause outside us is already the result of applying the principle of sufficient reason wrongly. If truth alone had been decisive in the genesis of language, if the viewpoint of certainty had been decisive in creating designations, how could we possibly be permitted to say, 'The stone is hard', as if 'hard' were something known to us in some other way, and not merely as an entirely subjective stimulus? We divide things up by gender, describing a tree as masculine and a plant as feminine4 - how arbitrary these translations are! How far they have flown beyond the canon of certainty! We speak of a snake; the designation captures only its twisting movements and thus could equally well apply to a worm. How arbitrarily these borders are drawn, how one-sided the preference for this or that property of a thing! When different languages are set alongside one another it becomes clear that, where words are concerned, what matters is never truth, never the full and adequate expression;5 otherwise there would not be so many languages. The 'thing-in-itself' (which would be, precisely, pure truth, truth without consequences) is impossible for even the creator oflanguage to grasp, and indeed this is not at all desirable. He designates only the relations of things to human beings, and in order to express them he avails himself of the boldest metaphors.



Wenn er dies in eigennütziger und übrigens Schaden bringender Weise tut, so wird ihm die Gesellschaft nicht mehr trauen und ihn dadurch von sich ausschließen. Die Menschen fliehen dabei das Betrogenwerden nicht so sehr als das Beschädigtwerden durch Betrug: sie hassen, auch auf dieser Stufe, im Grunde nicht die Täuschung, sondern die schlimmen, feindseligen Folgen gewisser Gattungen von Täuschungen. In einem ähnlichen beschränkten Sinne will der Mensch auch nur die Wahrheit: er begehrt die angenehmen, Leben erhaltenden Folgen der Wahrheit, gegen die reine folgenlose Erkenntnis ist er gleichgültig, gegen die vielleicht schädlichen und zerstörenden Wahrheiten sogar feindlich gestimmt. Und überdies! wie steht es mit jenen Konventionen der Sprache; Sind sie vielleicht Erzeugnisse der Erkenntnis, des Wahrheitssinnes, decken sich die Bezeichnungen und die Dinge? Ist die Sprache der adäquate Ausdruck aller Realitäten?

Nur durch die Vergesslichkeit kann der Mensch je dazu kommen zu wähnen, er besitze eine »Wahrheit« in dem eben bezeichneten Grade. Wenn er sich nicht mit der Wahrheit in der Form der Tautologie, das heißt mit leeren Hülsen begnügen will, so wird er ewig Illusionen für Wahrheiten einhandeln. Was ist ein Wort? Die Abbildung eines Nervenreizes in Lauten. Von dem Nervenreiz aber Weiterzuschließen auf eine Ursache außer uns, ist bereits das Resultat einer falschen und unberechtigten Anwendung des Satzes vom Grunde.





In the state of nature, there is no “convention” to regulate the self-interest of individuals. Therefore, the behaviour of individuals reflects im-mediately, even in the case in which they seek to camouflage them, the self-interests of these individuals. This means that no “moral judgements” are possible over their conduct. In civil society, instead, the individual must behave in conformity with what is generally accepted to be behaviour conducive to social peace and the public good – “moral conduct” – and therefore “human beings fear falsehood less than they do the discomfort or disutility to themselves of [being caught] lying”. Similarly, they seek truth much less than they seek the utility and advantages that it may bring them by observing the tenets of truth as a social convention. What is most effective in a society is the speed of communication as a means of achieving one’s selfish goals as expeditiously as possible through symbolic exchange, that is, through the exchange of conventional concepts.


But these “concepts” themselves already introduce a “distance” from the living experience of human beings because they “abstract from” and “mediate” the im-mediate perception or “intuition” (Anschauung) of life and the world. Such a process of “socialization” of human experience through the instrument of symbolic exchange opens up a chasm between the life and the world of “the state of nature” where there was no “distance” between perception and experience – a world that was “extra-moral” – and the civil society in which such a “distance” is established by “concepts” that make “the non-identical identical”! Already here Nietzsche is introducing that notion of mimesis with life and the world in the state of nature that we examined earlier and that will become the bucolic introduction to the Second Meditation, on the Uses of History.


Let us consider in particular how concepts are formed; each word immediately becomes a concept, not by virtue of the fact that it is intended to serve as a memory (say) of the unique, utterly individualized, primary experience to which it owes its existence, but because at the same time it must fit countless other, more or less similar cases, i.e. cases which, strictly speaking, are never equivalent, and thus nothing other than nonequivalent cases. Every concept comes into being by making equivalent that which is non-equivalent. Just as it is certain that no leaf is ever exactly the same as any other leaf, it is equally certain that the concept 'leaf' is formed by dropping these individual differences arbitrarily, by forgetting those features which differentiate one thing from another. so that the concept then gives rise to the notion that  something  other than leaves exists in nature, something which would be 'leaf', a primal form, say. From, which all leaves were woven, drawn, delineated, dyed, curled, painted- but by a clumsy pair of hands, so that no single example turned out to be a faithful, correct, and reliable copy of the primal form. We call a manhon~w-e ask, 'Why did he act so honestly today?' Our answer is usually: "Because of his honesty.' Honesty! - yet again, this means that the leafis the cause ofthe leaves. We have no knowledge ofan essential quality whichmightbecalled honesty, but we do know of numerous individualized and hence nonequivalent actions which we equate with each other by omitting what is unlike, and which we now designate as honestactions; finally we formulate from them a qualitas occulta7 with the name 'honesty'. [P.145]



This symbolic exchange or conceptual mediation has the obvious effect of “distancing” the individual from the immediate “view” or “intuition” (Anschauung) of life and the world so that the “im-mediacy” of that view, intuition or perception grows more remote from its “original” as the amount, frequency and “generality”of conceptual interaction grows greater. But this greater “generality” increases the “distance” of the symbolic exchange from the “identity” of the original human intuition and perception, leaving a large “space” or “chasm” between identity and non-identity that can easily turn symbolic “exchange” into “symbolic manipulation” such that what seem to be “true” identities are in fact the artificial pro-ducts of symbolic manipulation in the double sense of sheer “lies”, made possible by the “distancing” of human experience from its “object”, and more generally “anthropomorphism”, that is the “conventional description” of life and the world “for the sake of” the civil society that is finally mistaken for “the objective reality” of life and the world!



Like form, a concept is produced byoverlooking whatis individual and real, whereas nature knows neither forms nor concepts and hence no species, but only an 'X' which is inaccessible to us and indefinable by us. For the opposition we make between individual and species is also anthropomorphic and does not stem from the essence of things, although we equally do not dare to say that it does not correspond to the essence of things, since that would be a dogmatic assertion and, as such, just as incapable of being proved as its opposite.

[146] What, then, is truth? Amobile army of metaphors, metonymies, anthropomorphisms, in short a sum of human relations which have been subjected to poetic and rhetorical intensification, translation, and decoration, and which, after they have been in use for a long time, strike a people as firmly established, canonical, and binding; truths are illusions ofwhich we have forgotten that they are illusions, metaphors which have become worn by frequent use and have lost all sensuous vigour, coins which, having lost their stamp, are now regarded as metal and no longer as coins. Yet we still do not know where the drive to truth comes from, for so far we have only heard about the obligation to be truthful which society imposes in order to exist, i.e. the obligation to use the customary metaphors, or, to put it in moral terms, the obligation to lie in accordance with firmly established convention, to lie en masse and in a style that is binding for all. Now, it is true that human beings forget that this is how things are; thus they lie unconsciously in the way we have described, and in accordance with centuries-old habits- and precisely because ofthis unconsciousness, precisely because ofthis forgetting, they arrive at the feeling of truth. The feeling that one is obliged to describe one thing as red, another as cold, and a third as dumb, prompts a moral impulse which pertains to truth; from its opposite, the liar whom no one trusts and all exclude, human beings demonstrate to themselves just how honourable, confidence-inspiring and useful truth is. As creatures of reason, human beings now make their actions subjectto therule ofabstractions; theyno longer tolerate beingsweptaway by sudden impressions and sensuous perceptions; they now generalize all these impressions first, turning them into cooler, less colourful concepts in order to harness the vehicle oftheir lives and actions to them. Everything which distinguishes human beings from animals depends on this ability to sublimate sensuous metaphors into a schema, in other words, to dissolve an image into a concept.


Das Übersehen des Individuellen und Wirklichen gibt uns den Begriff, wie es uns auch die Form gibt, wohingegen die Natur keine Formen und Begriffe, also auch keine Gattungen kennt, sondern nur ein für uns unzugängliches und undefinierbares X. Denn auch unser Gegensatz von Individuum und Gattung ist anthropomorphisch und entstammt nicht dem Wesen der Dinge, wenn wir auch nicht zu sagen wagen, dass er ihm nicht entspricht: das wäre nämlich eine dogmatische Behauptung und als solche ebenso unerweislich wie ihr Gegenteil.

Was ist also Wahrheit? Ein bewegliches Heer von Metaphern, Metonymien, Anthropomorphismen, kurz eine Summe von menschlichen Relationen, die, poetisch und rhetorisch gesteigert, übertragen, geschmückt wurden und die nach langem Gebrauch einem Volke fest, kanonisch und verbindlich dünken: die Wahrheiten sind Illusionen, von denen man vergessen hat, dass sie welche sind, Metaphern, die abgenutzt und sinnlich kraftlos geworden sind, Münzen, die ihr Bild verloren haben und nun als Metall, nicht mehr als Münzen, in Betracht kommen.



“What is truth?” Nietzsche asks. It is interesting here how Nietzsche describes “nature” as “an X inaccessible and undefinable by us”. Again, Nietzsche is certainly not referring to “the thing in itself”, which he openly criticizes in this text already, but rather to “the state of nature”, what we may call here “the neutral world”, which is a reality (not a “thing”) that is co-naturate with and com-penetrated by our perception which is therefore not accessible or definable (an “X”) the moment we abstract from our mimetisation with it and speak about “us” as “consciousness”. This “consciousness of oneself” (which Nietzsche addresses and refutes here) is only an “anthropomorphisation” of life and the world, the attribution of “autonomy” or “freedom” to human agents and indeed, through “the principle of sufficient reason”, to every “causal agent” - a human interpretation of life and the world that “entstammt nicht dem Wesen der Dinge”: Nor is even this last designation correct, says Nietzsche, because there is no such thing as “the essence of things”. So entrenched grows the belief in the correspondence of events and phenomena with the linguistic concepts that we assign to them that that “correspondence” is ultimately seen as “necessary” so that the “anthropomorphisms” contained inevitably in the metaphors come to be misinterpreted as “causal links”, as necessary relations between distinct events and phenomena that in reality cannot be “connected” and indeed cannot even be “dis-connected” because there is no “order” – there is no ordo et connexio rerum between them “in themselves”, just as there is no “order” between the “ideas” or “con-cepts” (ordo et connexio idearum)  that we adopt to designate them.


If someone hides something behind a bush, looks for it in the same place and then finds it there, his seeking and finding is nothing much to boast about; but this is exactly how things are as far as the seeking and finding of 'truth' within the territory of reason is concerned. If I create the definition of a mammal and then, having inspected a camel, declare, 'Behold, a mammal', then a truth has certainly been brought to light, but it is of limited value, by which I mean that it is anthropomorphic through and through and contains not a single point which could be said to be 'true in itself', really and in a generally valid sense, regardless of mankind.[147]


Only by forgetting this primitive world of metaphor, only by virtue of the fact that a mass of images, which originally flowed in a hot, liquid stream from the primal power of the human imagination, has become hard and rigid, only because of the invincible faith that this sun, this window, this table is a truth in itself- in short only because man forgets himself as a subject, and indeed as an artistically creative subject, does he live with some degree of peace, security, and consistency; if he could escape for just a moment from the prison walls of this faith, it would mean the end ofhis 'consciousness of self’'.


Nur durch das Vergessen jener primitiven Metapherwelt, nur durch das Hart- und Starrwerden einer ursprünglqichen, in hitziger Flüssigkeit aus dem Urvermögen menschlicher Phantasie hervorströmenden Bildermasse, nur durch den unbesiegbaren Glauben, diese Sonne, dieses Fenster, dieser Tisch sei eine Wahrheit an sich, kurz nur dadurch, dass der Mensch sich als Subjekt, und zwar als künstlerisch schaffendes Subjekt, vergisst, lebt er mit einiger Ruhe, Sicherheit und Konsequenz: wenn er einen Augenblick nur aus den Gefängniswänden dieses Glaubens heraus könnte, so wäre es sofort mit seinem »Selbstbewusstsein« vorbei. (S.184)



The word appearance (Erscheinung) contains many seductions, and for this reason I avoid using it as far as possible; for it is not true that the essence of things appears in the empirical world. A painter who has no hands and who wished to express in song the image hovering before him[149] will still reveal more through this substitution of one sphere for another than the empirical world betrays of the essence of things. Even the relation of a nervous stimulus to the image produced thereby is inherently not a necessary relationship; but when that same image has been produced millions of times and has been passed down through many generations of humanity, indeed eventually appears in the whole of humanity as a consequence of the same occasion, it finally acquires the same significance for all human beings, as if it were the only necessary image and as if that relation of the original nervous stimulus to the image produced were a relation of strict causality - in exactly the same way as a dream, if repeated eternally, would be felt and judged entirely as reality. But the fact that a metaphor becomes hard and rigid is absolutely no guarantee of the necessity and exclusive justification of that metaphor. Anyone who is at home in such considerations will certainly have felt a deep mistrust of this kind of idealism when he has once become clearly convinced of the eternal consistency, ubiquitousness and infallibility of the laws ofnature; he will then conclude that everything, as far as we can penetrate, whether to the heights of the telescopic world or the depths of the microscopic world, is so sure, so elaborated, so endless, so much in conformity to laws, and so free of lacunae, that science will be able to mine these shafts successfully for ever, and that everything found there will be in agreement and without self-contradiction. How little all of this resembles a product of the imagination, for if it were such a thing, the illusion and the unreality would be bound to be detectable somewhere. The first thing to be said against this view is this: if each of us still had a different kind of sensuous perception, if we ourselves could only perceive things as, variously, a bird, a worm, or a plant does, or if one of us were to see a stimulus as red, a second person were to see the same stimulus as blue, while a third were even to hear it as a sound, nobody would ever speak of nature as something conforming to laws; rather they would take it to be nothing other than a highly subjective formation. Consequently, what is a law of nature for us at all? It is not known to us in itself but only in its effects, i.e. in its relations to other laws of nature which are in turn known to us only as relations. Thus, all these relations refer only to one another, and they are utterly incomprehensible to us in their essential nature; the only things we really know about them are things which we bring to bear on them: time and space, in other words, relations of succession and number.


Ein Maler, dem die Hände fehlen und der durch Gesang das ihm vorschwebende Bild ausdrücken wollte, wird immer noch mehr bei dieser Vertauschung der Sphären verraten, als die empirische Welt vom Wesen der Dinge verrät. Selbst das Verhältnis eines Nervenreizes zu dem hervorgebrachten Bilde ist an sich kein notwendiges: wenn aber dasselbe Bild millionenmal hervorgebracht und durch viele Menschengeschlechter hindurch vererbt ist, ja zuletzt bei der gesamten Menschheit jedesmal infolge desselben Anlasses erscheint, so bekommt es endlich für den Menschen dieselbe Bedeutung, als ob es das einzig notwendige Bild sei und als ob jenes Verhältnis des ursprünglichen Nervenreizes zu dem hergebrachten Bilde ein strenges Kausalitätsverhältnis sei: wie ein Traum, ewig wiederholt, durchaus als Wirklichkeit empfunden und beurteilt werden würde. Aber das Hart- und Starr-Werden einer Metapher verbürgt durchaus nichts für die Notwendigkeit und ausschließliche Berechtigung dieser Metapher. (S.185)



Language and science are the two instruments that permit the diffusion and spread of these symbolic conventions; and they are tools that are keenly abused by human beings in society to achieve their own selfish ends to the detriment of their own original intuition or perception of life and the world, as was the case in the state of nature. It is this “chrystallisation and sclerosis”, this quantification of human experience, this “secularization” of the world, this “measuring” and “standardization”, this “dis-enchantment” of life and the world through extrinsic “values” that the early Nietzsche denounces as “der Begräbnisstätte der Anschauungen” (the cemetery of intuition).




Originally, as we have seen, it is language which works on building the edifice of concepts; later it is science. Just as the bee simultaneously builds the cells of its comb and fills them with honey, so science works unceasingly at that great columbarium of concepts, the cemetery of intuitions, builds ever-new, ever-higher tiers, supports, cleans, renews the old cells, and strives above all to fill that framework which towers up to vast heights, and to fit into it in an orderly way the whole empirical world, i.e. the anthropomorphic world. If even the man of action binds his life to reason and its concepts, so as not to be swept away and lose himself, the researcher builds his hut close by the tower of science so that he can lend a hand with the building and find protection for himself beneath its already existing bulwarks. And he has need of protection, for there exist fearful powers which constantly press in on him and which confront scientific truth with 'truths' of quite another kind, on shields emblazoned with the most multifarious emblems.


2. An dem Bau der Begriffe arbeitet ursprünglich, wie wir sahen, die Sprache, in späteren Zeiten die Wissenschaft. Wie die Biene zugleich an den Zellen baut und die Zellen mit Honig füllt, so arbeitet die Wissenschaft unaufhaltsam an jenem großen Kolumbarium der Begriffe, der Begräbnisstätte der Anschauungen, baut immer neue und höhere Stockwerke, stützt, reinigt, erneut die alten Zellen und ist vor allem bemüht, jenes ins Ungeheure aufgetürmte Fachwerk zu füllen und die ganze empirische Welt, das heißt die anthropomorphische Welt, hineinzuordnen.


It is important to note that Nietzsche does not identify “the state of nature” as a Rousseauean idyll (see Vattimo reference in ‘The Mask’): – far from it, given his acceptance of the Hobbesian bellum civium! His is not a romantic throwback to “the noble savage”: much rather and almost explicitly, it is a Mandevillean satire of bourgeois society, but one that engages in a fundamental critique of the Hobbesian notion of the state of nature – as far as the latter envisages human beings to be the same in both the status civilis and the status naturae. Even at this early stage, Nietzsche envisages the state of nature as a “neutral state”, as a spontaneous state of ir-responsibility, one in which “moral judgements” attributing “values” such as “truth” and “falsehood” do not apply – only “the extra-moral sense” applies, and it is against the stark background of the “inaccessible and undefinable X” of this “state of nature” that “truth and falsehood” must be “under-stood”. What is missing in the state of nature are the con-veniences that civil society brings. But these are acquired in civil society at the cost of the new con-ventions that rob human beings of their intuition in exchange for the newly-acquired “sense or meaning of Truth” (Wahrheit-sinn), which is a Mandevillean “hypocrisy” (“the tribute that Vice pays to Virtue”) and a “mask of convention” or “dissimulation”, a kind of fetishism or alienation that operates by anthropomorphic depiction of the world under the pretence of “scientific objectivity”. All this begins later in the civil state of bourgeois society.



It is entirely evident at this juncture how the “separation” of what is seen as “authentic” human experience in the pre-social “state of nature” based on the im-mediacy of human intuition is bluntly (perhaps nostalgically and even romantically) contrasted with the “conventionality” and “inauthenticity”, the “contrived and artificial” existence of human beings in “civil society” in which the “averageness” of experience mediated through complex symbolic exchanges ends up “alienating” them from their very “being” which appears therefore as “Da-sein”, mere “being there”, sheer contingent “thrown-ness” or (more psychologically described) “de-jection” in the “chrystallised and sclerotic”, “impersonal and anonymous” (“one”; German man) social world of “everyday life” (Alltaglichkeit). The ante litteram Heideggerian echoes are absolutely unmistakable. (And so are, parenthetically, the Freudian ones of “the Reality Principle” – the distinction drawn in Das Unbehagen in der Kultur between the Ego and the world and its psychological origin, which seems to replicate Nietzsche’s own “onto-geny of thought”. In “renouncing” the idea [suggested to him by Romain Rolland in a letter] of the “oceanic feeling”, Freud is taking up the negation of a human inter esse – of the dialectic of self-consciousness – that is the foundational Welt-anschauung of the negatives Denken, and at the same time re-asserting the primacy of “physiological signs” over “feelings” [see ‘CaID’, p.12], a very Machian position.)


There are epochs in which the man of reason and the man of intuition stand side by side, the one fearful of intuition, the other filled with scorn for abstraction, the latter as unreasonable as the former is unartistic. They both desire to rule over life; the one by his knowledge ofhow to cope with the chief calamities of life by providing for the future, by prudence and regularity, the other by being an 'exuberant hero'12 who does not see those calamities and who only acknowledges life as real when it is disguised as beauty and appearance.



Hobbes and Hegel started from the fear of death in order to escape the state of nature and secure the rational salvation of bourgeois society through the State. The negatives Denken despairs in the rational State and liberal bourgeois society; hence, it turns back to the pre-comprehension of the individual ontological dimension of the Da-sein that precedes “civil society” – back toward an “authentic” state of being, the “state of nature”. We saw earlier how Heidegger’s “pre-comprehension” of the Da-sein is a manner of escaping the alienated ontic world of liberal bourgeois society to return to the Hobbesian “neutral state”, or to what Schmitt calls provocatively “the Political” – indicating that the liberal State only deludes itself into thinking that it has eliminated conflict from bourgeois civil society by reconciling the Political with the Economic through its “science” of Political Economy. Heidegger and Schmitt utilize their revulsion at the “inauthenticity” of bourgeois civil society, at the “facticity” of its “reification and alienation”, at its “quantification and spatialisation of time” so as to revert to a phenomenological and existential “pre-comprehension” of it that leads straight to the “authenticity” of the “resoluteness toward oneself”, to “the Political of friend and foe”, to “the decision in anticipation of death”. Heidegger and Schmitt revive the Kierkegaardian “anguish before death” (an echo of Schopenhauer’s “renunciation”) to reject the liberalism of bourgeois society, its “mask”, its pretended “homologation” of all tension and conflict, its faith in the rational reconciliation of Politics and Economics. (Vattimo stops at this “liberal-tolerance”, “artistic-freedom” perspectivist exegesis of Nietzsche – “mask” as “infinite interpretation”, “living in a dream”. But this begs the question of “what” is being “unmasked” and “dreamed”: Nietzsche will see through the “mask” and awaken from dreaming, just as he will overcome the “artistic” critique of bourgeois society later propounded by Heidegger and Schmitt.)


What Heidegger and Schmitt want to re-formulate as an ontological difference, Hobbes and Hegel wanted to reconcile with a social synthesis that Nietzsche criticizes immanently, from the perspective of the Will to Power which (contrary to Heidegger’s effort to place him within Aristotelian-German Idealism) deploys a new ontology to formulate a new “negative theory” (not a syn-thesis) devoid of inter-esse. Marx himself remained, of course, within this Hobbesian-Hegelian uni-verse despite inverting Hegel’s dialectic to a “historico-materialist” basis: – although his inter-esse is not the dialectically unfolding Ratio of the “free will”, it is still what he perceived as the “scientific” foundation of “socially necessary labour time”. (Hobbes’s rationalism is well perceived by Leo Strauss in his comment about how Hobbes seeks to escape the state of nature through the Political whereas Schmitt interprets the Political as a return to the state of nature. Of course, Schmitt fails to explain how groups of “friends” and “foes” are formed in the first place – what binds them together – because this “binding”, this inter-est, would contradict his vision of the Political as the state of nature!)


From Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard through to Nietzsche and Heidegger, although in each case from different premises, the negatives Denken “de-structs” this social syn-thesis, this inter-esse, first by criticizing the Sub-ject of the con-vention, and then by attacking the “causal nexus” of the subiectum. Chief target of this de-struction is the “work” of “actu-ality”, the ergon of energeia, the opus of the operari: not just the “subjectity” of the notion of “work” (its “active” part, its being the foundation of the social synthesis), but also its inevitable “self-dissolution” in “objectivity” and “reification” - in nihilism. Schopenhauer attacks the “futility” of the operari, its aimlessness, its evanescence at the point of satis-faction, of ful-filment and com-pletion; Kierkegaard attacks its “irrelevance” to the fundamental question of existence, of the human condition; Nietzsche attacks its “causality”, not in a jejune Humean skeptical posture (as Arendt wrongly believed), but by attacking its “value”; and Heidegger its “facticity”, its “Zuhandenheit”. All are dis-satisfied, dif-ferently, with the apparent social syntheses of liberalism (utility) and socialism (labour) – with their “Value”.




[For Nietzsche, the greatness of German Idealist philosophers consisted in demonstrating the opposite of what each wished to prove by the genius of his attempts: hence, Leibniz shows that there is no Subject behind the unity of appetitus and perceptio; Kant shows that there is no “thing-in-itself” behind “appearance”; and Hegel shows that there is no reconciliation of “free will” and “physical necessity” in history. Even Schopenhauer shows that refusing to deal with the world merely amounts to the affirmation of the world – not to its denial!]


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